WordNerds: Kafkaesque

Since I recently wrote a post that quoted Franz Kafka, I decided I’d like to write about the word “Kafkaesque” today. Imagine being such a famous writer that an adjective is created from your name!

Canadian Oxford’s definition follows:

Kafkaesque: (of a situation, atmosphere, etc.) impenetrably oppressive, nightmarish, in a manner characteristic of the fictional world of Franz Kafka.

beetle on window

Someone took this photo of me this morning!

Kafka is perhaps most famous for his 1915 novella The Metamorphosis, in which his protagonist Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find he has been inexplicably transformed into an ungeheuren Ungeziefer (usually translated as “monstrous vermin” or sometimes simply “bug”).

cover of The MetamorphosisApparently, Vladimir Nabokov, who was not only a great writer (Lolita, Pale Fire etc.) and literary critic but a serious lepidopterist, interpreted Kafka’s text to mean that Gregor was a 3-foot-long beetle.

The book has been studied extensively in universities and has been adapted for the screen and stage many times, most recently as Metamorphosis the Movie (2012), directed by Chris Swanton. According to Wikipedia, this full-length feature film “captures both the intense sadness as well as the rich humour and sense of the bizarre that runs throughout Franz Kafka’s work.”

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